The capital of West Sumatra, Padang is the gateway to the Minang highlands. With the largest port on Sumatra’s West Coast, this is a merchant town attracting ships trading in goods such as rubber, cinnamon, coffee, tee, cement and coal. If you take a stroll down to the old colonial waterfront you’ll see century old warehouses stocked with fragrant cinammon and other spices waiting to be shipped to Jakarta and Singapore.
Take a pleasant walk around the older parts of Padang like Kampung Cina (China town) where turn of the century houses line the streets. Around here you’ll see a collection of Chinese herbalists doing business as well as coffee shops that can provide a refreshing cool drink to escape the heat of the day.
The Provinicial Museum in downtown Padang is home to a collection of prehistoric artifacts, stamps, imported ceramics, modern art and displays about the Minang and Mentawai culture.
Air Manis is Padang’s most popular beach, located about one hours walk along the coast (or a quick trip in a minibus). The legend of the beach says that once a young man named Malin Kundang went out to sea to become a rich merchant. When he returned home, his mother was so excited she dressed in her best clothes, made him a meal and went out to his ship to meet him. But Malin Kudang felt ashamed and pretended not to know her. His mother’s heart broke and as he sailed away she cursed him. As the he left, thunder and lightening broke out and the ship sank. Everyone aboard perished and were turned to stone – a coral outcropping at the beach is said to be their remains.
At Bungus, a small village about 25km south of Padang there is a pleasant swimming beach sheltered in a bay. From here you can hire an outrigger to visit the nearby coral islands which lie about an hour off shore.
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